NRL match preview: Round 7

After a very strong performance against the Broncos back in Round 5, it all came crashing down when the nib Newcastle Knights visited the reigning premiers in Melbourne last Friday.

On the wrong end of a 40-14 score line, the Knights now have to dust themselves off against a plucky Wests Tigers side that currently sits in fourth place on the ladder.

WESTS TIGERS v NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS

 
Date: Saturday April 21
Gates: 2.30pm
Kick-off: 5.30pm
Venue: Scully Park
Referee: Gerard Sutton
 
HEAD-TO-HEAD
 
Played: 24
Knights: 12
Tigers: 12

TEAMS
 
Newcastle
1. Kalyn Ponga, 2. Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 3. Sione Mata’utia, 4. Nathan Ross, 5. Ken Sio, 6. Jack Cogger, 7. Mitchell Pearce, 8. Herman Ese’ese, 9. Slade Griffin, 10. Jacob Lillyman, 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12. Aidan Guerra, 13. Mitch Barnett. Interchange: 14. Danny Levi, 15. Chris Heighington, 16. Jamie Buhrer, 17. Jacob Saifiti, 18. Daniel Saifiti, 19. Josh King, 20. Luke Yates, 21. Cory Denniss.
 
Wests
1. Corey Thompson, 2. David Nofoaluma, 3. Esan Marsters, 4. Kevin Naiqama, 5. Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, 6. Benji Marshall, 7. Luke Brooks, 8. Matthew Eisenhuth, 9. Jacob Liddle, 10. Ben Matulino, 11. Josh Aloiai, 12. Robbie Rochow, 13. Elijah Taylor, Interchange: 14. Pita Godinet, 15. Alex Twal, 16. Michael Chee-Kam, 17. Sauaso Sue, 18. Tim Grant, 19. Chris McQueen, 20. Tyson Gamble, 21. Tuimoala Lolohea.

BOUNCING BACK


The last time the Knights were inundated by a strong attacking outfit came back in Round 4 when they lost 30-12 to the St George Illawarra Dragons.

The next week the team bounced back in style against the Broncos with their best performance of the season.

The red and blues will need to do that again this weekend against a Tigers side that very grudgingly gives points away.

Enforcer Mitch Barnett will be a big boost for the team after he missed last week through suspension, while Jack Cogger gets his first start of the season in the halves.

Meanwhile the Tigers lose Chris Lawrence, Josh Reynolds and Russell Packer, although co-captain Elijah Taylor comes back into the side having been absent since Round 2 with a hamstring injury.

CONTRASTING STYLES


The Tigers have conceded the least points in the competition so far this season, while the Knights have shown that they’re capable of scoring points whenever they get a sniff.

That being said, in their first three games the Tigers scored a total of just 27 points, but in the three since then they’ve piled on 79.

So in Tamworth the Knights will be coming up against a side that is brilliant in defence and no slouches in attack either.

It remains to be seen how the Knights’ attack changes with Cogger coming into the halves, but Mitchell Pearce is always capable of guiding the side around and Kalyn Ponga has not yet had a bad performance.

The 20-year-old fullback leads the competition in tackle breaks and also has six try-assists to his name.

TRAVELLING TO TAMWORTH


For the first time since playing the South Sydney Rabbitohs in Cairns back in 2014, the team will be going regional in Round 7.

With Tamworth in Knights territory and Scully Park officially sold out for the match, the Club is hoping for plenty of red and blue support in what is technically an away match.

The incredible support from the crowd played a big factor in the red and blues’ wins in Rounds 1 and 5, and as the City v Country match back in 2016 showed, Scully Park has the potential to be a loud, dramatic venue for rugby league.

As Chris Heighington said on Monday, “Hopefully a lot of people can get in their cars and turn up because we love playing in front of Knights fans… the last three games we won I believe because the crowd got us home.”

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